LINGUIST List 12.1391

Mon May 21 2001

Review: Roca, Spanish in the US: Issues & Challenges

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  1. Laura Callahan, Review: Research on Spanish in the U.S.

Message 1: Review: Research on Spanish in the U.S.

Date: Mon, 21 May 2001 12:50:45 EDT
From: Laura Callahan <>
Subject: Review: Research on Spanish in the U.S.

Roca, Ana, ed. (2000) Research on Spanish in the United
States: Linguistics Issues and Challenges. Somerville, MA:
Cascadilla Press. xiv + 450 pp. ISBN 1-57473-013-4 (PB)

Reviewed by: Laura Callahan, University of California-Berkeley

The twenty-nine articles in this volume come from papers
presented at the Seventeeth National Conference on Spanish
in the United States (Coral Gables, Miami-Dade County,
Florida; March 1999), complemented by a few specially
commissioned chapters. Twenty-three of the articles are
written in English and six in Spanish. The book is divided
into eight sections by topic, and each section contains three
to six articles. Articles cover a wide range of issues,
from phonological variation to language ideology.

In Part One, U.S. Spanish: An Overview of the Issues,
John Lipski chronicles research on United States Spanish
against the sociocultural and political context of each
decade in the last century. This overview, in which
Lipski expands on an earlier piece (1998), allows the reader
to quickly situate topics and their treatment in the field, and
is very useful both as an opening essay to this collection and
for general reference.

Part Two, Bilingualism and Interpreting, features three
articles. Guadalupe Vald�s et al. study the special competence
displayed by youngsters in immigrant communities who become
interpreters for their parents. The other two articles concern court
interpretation. Virginia Benmaman reports on violations of due
process caused by the incompetence or absence of court
interpreters. In "Sociolinguistic Categorization of
Spanish-English False Cognates for Court Interpreting
Strategies", Erik Camayd-Freixas highlights the potential
for errors that could arise from ignorance of the effects
that contact with English has had on U.S. Spanish.
Court interpreters often face a dilemma in deciding
whether to give a "correct" or popular translation of a
false cognate used by a witness. For example, a witness
may use the Spanish word "violaci�n" to signify
"infracci�n"--equivalent in English to 'infraction' or
'violation'--whereas the meaning of "violaci�n" in monolingual
Spanish is 'rape' (95).

In Part Three, Historical Perspectives, Rebeca Acevedo
presents findings in "Perspective hist�rica del paradigma
verbal en el espa�ol de California" supporting
Silva-Corval�n's (1994: 208) hypothesis that morphosyntactic
simplification is a result of processes internal to Spanish that
have been accelerated by, but are not the result of, contact
with English. Ysaura Bernal-Enr�quez discusses socio-historic
factors in Spanish language loss in the Southwestern U.S.,
and suggests implications for revitalization efforts.
Garland D. Bills and Neddy Vigil study nahuatlisms
in New Mexican Spanish.

Part Four, Borrowings, showcases opposing perspectives
on the subject of English lexical influence on Spanish.
M�nica Cantero, in "Adapted Borrowings in Spanish:
A Morphopragmatic Hypothesis", offers the attenuation or
avoidance of taboo subjects as one reason speakers may
choose a borrowing over a native Spanish word.
In "Phrasal Calques in Chicano Spanish: Linguistic
or Cultural Innovation?", Robert Smead examines phrases
similar to "dar para atr�s" (assumed to be calqued on the
English 'to give back') for signs of invention rather than
imitation. The tone changes from descriptive to in part
prescriptive in Beatriz Varela's "El espa�ol cubanoamericano."
Varela expresses dismay that such verbal constructions as
the one mentioned above enjoy wide diffusion, and
maintains that the inclusion of certain anglicisms in
the latest edition of the dictionary of the Real Academia
Espa�ola is unnecessary in cases where a Spanish
synonym exists.

Part Five, entitled Codeswitching, Narratives, and Discourse,
includes two studies of codeswitching that focus on writing.
Almeida Jacqueline Toribio's "Once upon a time en un lugar
muy lejano--Spanish-English Codeswitching across Fairy
Tale Narratives", uses reading, writing, and grammatical
acceptibility tasks to assess bilinguals' competence in
codeswitching constraints. Cecilia Montes-Alcal�'s "Attitudes
Towards Oral and Written Code-Switching in Spanish-English
Bilingual Youths" presents evidence of an increasing acceptance
of codeswitching by members of younger generations.

The articles in Part Six, Sociolinguistics and Pragmatics,
deal variously with issues of linguistic and ethnic identity
in different Hispanic speech communities, forms of address
in Puerto Rico, politeness strategies in California Spanish,
and a model for the development of the academic register
in a Spanish for Native Speakers program. Toribio's
"Nosotros somos dominicanos: Language and Self-definition
among Dominicans" is a welcome addition to the volume,
which, like many collections of its kind, tends to focus on the
three major varities of U.S. Spanish, that is, those of Mexican,
Puerto Rican, and Cuban origin.

Part Seven is Phonology, Morphology, and Syntax.
Robert Hammond's contribution, "The Multiple Vibrant Liquid
in U.S. Spanish", is particularly intriguing, and has relevance
for pedagogical practices as well as for perceptions of what is
standard. He presents evidence supporting demotion of the
Spanish trill from phonemic status to an allophone of the flap.
MaryEllen Garcia and Michael Tallon discuss phonological and
morphological variability in estar in Mexican-American Spanish.
Francisco Zabaleta compares morphosyntactic features of the
Spanish spoken by native speakers in a population of California
university students with features reported by
Lope-Blanch (1993) for Mexican Spanish.

Part Eight closes the volume with the heading Language
Ideologies: Attitudes, Planning, and Policy Issues. The
articles in this section study attitudes toward and the
implementation of bilingual education programs, the acquisition
of academic English, and the maintenance of Spanish. In
"Bilingual Education, the Acquisition of English, and the
Retention and Loss of Spanish", Stephen Krashen argues that
an effective bilingual program should first develop literacy in
Spanish, which will then transfer to the acquisition of
academic English. This would help forestall the incomplete
acquisition of more formal registers in both languages suffered
by children forced into a premature transition to English only.
Luis Ortiz-L�pez' "'Proyecto para formar un ciudadano
biling�e': pol�tica ling��stica y el espa�ol en Puerto Rico"
traces the history of language politics and planning on
the Island, including its intertwining with the politics of
statehood for Puerto Rico.

Both the strength and weakness of this volume come from its
breadth of topics. The former because it gives the reader,
and most importantly the instructor, a wide range of subjects
under one cover; the latter because the diversity of its scope
occasionally makes for a slightly random organization, most
notably in Part Six. But this is a very minor point, and one
for which the convenience of having so many recent studies
in a single volume more than compensates. Editor Ana Roca
points out the difficulty of organizing into one collection so
many papers, especially when what they have in common is
the reflection of current research trends, which are scattered
across various subfields of linguistics under the general
category of U.S. Spanish.

A perspective expressed by several of the authors is that
of the critical or committed linguist, one who aims not
only to describe a situation but also to affect its outcome.
This viewpoint was heard often at the most recent Conference
on Spanish in the United States (Eighteenth, University of
California-Davis, April 2000), particularly in the context
of Spanish language maintenance. An example in this volume
is the statement Rebeca Acevedo makes in regard to her study's
objectives, one of which is to promote the status of Spanish in
the United States and thereby achieve greater cultural and
social recognition of the Hispanic community in that country (110).

Lipski, John M. 1998. "Spanish Linguistics: the Past
100 Years: Retrospective and Bibliography." Hispania.
81-2: 248-260.

Lope-Blanch, Juan M. 1993. Ensayos sobre el espa�ol
de Am�rica. M�xico: Universidad Nacional Aut�noma de M�xico.

Real Academia Espa�ola. 1995. Diccionario de la lengua
espa�ola, vig�sima primera edici�n, edici�n en CD-ROM.
Madrid: Espasa-Calpe.

Silva-Corval�n, Carmen. 1994. Language Contact and Change:
Spanish in Los Angeles. Oxford: Clarendon.

About the reviewer
Laura Callahan recently finished work for a Ph.D. in
Spanish linguistics from the University of California-Berkeley.
Her research interests include all aspects of language contact,
language attitudes, and language politics. Her dissertation,
"Spanish-English Codeswitching in Fiction: A Grammatical
and Discourse Function Analysis", tests Myers-Scotton's
Matrix Language Frame model on a corpus of written data.
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